Nearly 81 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat. Every seven minutes a young girl is bullied somewhere. Age 10 is when 20 percent to 40 percent of girls start their first diet. Sound like scary statistics, which were researched by the Confidence Coalition? They are, and they’re just a glimpse into the world of body image and self-esteem issues that plague girls across the country everyday.
But one local mom isn’t willing to take those statistics lying down – unless of course you count on her yoga mat. Her name is Jamie Dicken, and together with her daughter, Juliette, and the power of yoga and journaling, she’s on a mission to help girls live happier, healthier and more confident lives.
Believe in She, founded by Dicken two years ago, seeks to empower tweens (ages 8 to13) and their mothers to turn the statistics around. After noticing a drastic change in her daughter’s demeanor at age 10, Dicken was determined to find out why her daughter’s self-esteem had tanked overnight, and to find a solution.
It was then that she came across a fact from the NYU Child Studies Center, which said, “girls’ self-esteem peaks when they are about 9 years old and then takes a nosedive.”
Thinking back on her own experiences, Dicken realized that in fact many of the challenges that she grapples with even as an adult could be traced back to age 10. At the same time that she came across this information, Dicken was enrolled to become a certified yoga teacher, and that’s when the light bulb went off.
“I looked around at the young girls who I was doing yoga with, how beautiful, healthy and confident they seemed,” Dicken said. “I thought about how different my life may have been had I figured this out much earlier in life, and I wondered if teaching my daughter yoga could help her too.”
In fact, it did. After taking yoga classes with her daughter and taking the time to foster open, honest conversations about everything from media images to bullying to boys, Dicken noticed a positive change in Juliette’s behavior. The girl who had seemed to lose her self-esteem was now walking with her head held high. However, knowing that teenagers are ever influenced by their friends, Dicken set out to spread this method of confidence building to others in her daughter’s life.
“[She] needed to believe in herself, she needed to believe in me and our relationship, and she needed to believe in her friends. That’s how Believe in She was born,” Dicken said.
Dicken and her daughter, who became one of the youngest certified yoga teachers ever, created an 8-week program that combines weekly yoga classes with journaling and open conversation. While the first class in 2010 consisted of a few of Juliette’s friends and their mothers, Believe in She has since had more than 200 mothers and daughters participate in their program – and the numbers are only growing.
Each yoga class is an hour and a half, and consists of 45 minutes of yoga, 30 minutes of journaling or open conversation, and 15 minutes of cooking or an art project. As Dicken put it, Believe in She classes always end on a good note.
For those moms and tweens who are concerned that yoga isn’t for them, Dicken insists this isn’t your typical downward-dog routine.
“We make it so acceptable and fun,” she said. “We play fun music and girls often yell out phrases like ‘I am strong!’ and ‘I believe in me!’ It’s a chance to step away from our busy lives.”
In addition to offering the 8-week class programs, Believe in She hosts quarterly workshops, a Girls Leadership Camp and other special events, several of which are hosted at The Girls Leadership Camp is a weeklong endeavor where girls are taught to create a project, set goals and act on them. The goal is to empower girls to do well and show them that they can make a difference in their community.
“Jamie is empowering teen girls to be stronger, more sure of themselves, and to discuss real life issues that girls come up against each day,” Cammy Patridge, a mother who participated with her daughter Skylar, said. “During the last camp Skylar attended, each girl got up and admitted they had been bullied at some point. As a mom, it’s sad to see this happening, yet it’s good that these girls are now at least able to talk about their feelings.”
The unexpected success and positive impact of Believe in She has not only helped program participants, but continues to encourage Dicken on a daily basis.
“While teaching a goal setting workshop at Lululemon on Mother’s Day a woman came over and told me that she was inspired and had one of the best Mother's Days ever. It was truly beautiful and was a huge gift for me,” Dicken said. “This is why I created Believe in She. I truly want for moms and daughters to be able to live happier and healthier lives.”
And it seems that Dicken’s success will only continue to grow. After being featured in a Yoga Journal article in May 2012, Dicken has been flooded with emails, phone calls and Facebook messages from people around the world offering words of encouragement as well as inquiries about participation. In the future, she hopes to expand the program to include teens 13 to 18, and is currently focused on training more yoga teachers so that everyone interested in the program is able to participate. In the meantime, she and Juliette will be travelling to yoga festivals and other like-minded events to spread their message.
“I truly believe that if we can strengthen the mother-daughter bond, we can really shift the self-esteem cycle,” she said. “I believe combining yoga, journaling and real honest, open conversation can make a world of difference.”